Amber Fire by Elaine Barbieri is the first in a trilogy of Zebra historical romances where the heroine is in love with or married to a rotating stable of heroes.
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Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Amber #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction, Colonial Era Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon
Ms. Barbieri’s first book, Captive Ecstasy, occurred during the French and Indian War. That story is tangentially related to this book, which begins after that war. Here we meet the heroine of Amber Fire and the rest of the “Amber” series, Melanie Morganfield when she is 13.
Melanie and her father, James, are going to live with a friend of his, Asa Parker, after the deaths of James’ wife and Melanie’s mother, Sara. James will be going to work for Asa, who is a wealthy foundry owner.
During the course of the book, which spans 11 years, James passes away, and Melanie becomes sexually involved with Asa.
Then, she has an affair with one of Asa’s employees, Stephen Hull, who is also a member of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys.
And finally, there is Simon Young, an emissary for New York Governor William Tryon.
Melanie also gives birth to a daughter, fathered by Asa, named Sara.
Melanie goes through trials and tribulations and emerges stronger for having gone through them.
Unlike most romance novels, the characters in Amber Fire are not perfect humans who usually do the right things. They do things that I and other readers may find questionable and offensive to our sensibilities.
That real humanity is very unusual and a strength of Ms. Barbieri’s early books. The characters’ emotions are on full display.
I’m not sure I liked any of the primary characters. Their behavior, while human, was also very unlikeable.
Melanie: Has affairs with Asa and Simon, both of whom were married when the affairs began. She also has an affair with Stephen while involved with Asa, with whom she has Sara out of wedlock.
Asa: Besides having an affair with Melanie, the affair begins when she is 16 years old—he’s 46—and the affair commences after James’ death when Melanie is vulnerable.
Simon: He has an affair with Melanie while he’s married. The argument Ms. Barbieri makes about his and Asa’s wives not being “true wives” to them is specious.
Stephen: He emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually abuses Melanie, which she forgives him for! He is also extremely unstable, going from kindness to rage in seconds.
All of the above characters are shallow and self-centered. They do not care much about the effect their actions have on anyone else. They are only concerned about what they want.
Also, there is an incident near the end of the book that feels a little creepy.
A few scenes that are mildly descriptive describe more of Melanie’s emotions and body than of her lovers.
Summer’s almost over, and this is no scorcher of a romance. Still, it’s moderately warm.
There are multiple assaults and one rape scene. The violence is not overly graphic.
Bottom Line on Amber Fire
On some level, Amber Fire by Elaine Barbieri is a five-star book. The unlikeability of the characters, combined with the other factors listed above, brings down my overall rating.
|Rating Report Card|
Auburn-haired, amber-eyed Melanie Morganfield had already lived in Asa Parker’s mansion since she was a child. But with each passing day now, the kind family friend – 29 years her senior – found it harder and harder to control his growing affection for the blossoming young woman. Asa was bewitched by Melanie’s fresh beauty and saucy tongue and gave her everything he could give…everything but marriage.
BURNING DESIREAmber Fire by Elaine Barbieri
Despite Melanie’s devotion to respectable Asa Parker, she couldn’t explain her reaction to Stephen Hull. Each time she saw the dark and sensual young man, Melanie’s senses throbbed with a longing that seared her veins. She knew she must avoid meeting Stephen Hull ever again – before she begged him to never let her go!